IBM@Play on Second Life.

Author:Hall, Tim

IBM@Play on Second Life, Online Training, 2007, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, $0.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I found myself in the oddest of places. There I was, looking about 20 years younger and walking around on an island with an occasional phantom figure passing by: monsters, vampires, animals, and regular folk. Suddenly, I received a message from on high, an invitation to teleport to another location.

Accepting the invitation, I immediately flew through time and space, landing from the sky on another island. There I stood face to face with Mr. Weeks, a man with spiky-white hair and plaid pants. No, this wasn't a bad dream induced by a late night pizza. This was my introduction to Second Life, and Weeks served as our Celtic tour guide.

When presented with an opportunity to review Second Life, I jumped at the chance to take Morpheus's red pill to see how deep the rabbit hole went. However, instead of following the white rabbit, I followed Chuck Hamilton of IBM's Center for Advanced Learning, an authority on the use of play and work to create optimal learning. Mr. Weeks is Chuck's avatar in Second Life. Frank Nguyen, the manager of emerging technologies at American Express, accompanied me on the tour.

Frank has managed the design, development, and deployment of learning and performance solutions for various Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, Intel, and MicroAge. He is coauthor of Efficiency in Learning (see the TMR review here) and has written articles on instructional design and performance support. Frank holds an Educational Technology masters and doctoral degree from Arizona State University.

According to, Second Life is an "Internet-based virtual world where residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items and services from one another."

Residents create an avatar, or visual online presence, to look any way they want. They navigate using their keyboard and communicate through text-messaging. Audio with a headset is on the horizon, and, of course, you can always use conference calls. Simulations like Second Life are sometimes referred to as "3D," meaning users encounter or build objects they can walk around, climb over, enter and exit, and so on.

A basic membership is free, but more privileges come with the paid premium membership. An up-to-date computer and fast connection are recommended. The tool itself seems...

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